Dear Ambassador, Mrs. Vijay Thakur Singh,
Thank you for inviting me to speak at the opening ceremony of today's conference to address the various dimensions of India's role and place in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
I proceed from the premise that the starting point and political guideline of the forthcoming discussion is further consolidation of SCO, enhancement of its authority and influence in the world, consistent development of cooperation within it for the benefit of security and prosperity of member states and the entire "SCO family" which now comprises 21 states.
I would like to thank the Indian Council of World Affairs for organizing the Conference.
I should note that over the past three years, and taking India's first participation in the SCO Heads of State Council meeting as a full-fledged member state as a starting point, the Council has tangibly established itself as an effective and creative intellectual center, capable of generating productive and interesting ideas to improve various aspects of our Organization's functioning and promote common interests in the international arena.
We highly appreciate the presentations of Indian experts at the recent session of SCO Forum, and their reflections on enhancing trade and economic partnership in the SCO in the post-COVID era.
As you know, this year is a jubilee year for SCO.
The Organization has entered into the third decade of its existence.
A little over a month ago, the Council of Heads of the SCO member-states in Dushanbe adopted an SCO 20th Anniversary Declaration in which the leaders of eight nations summarized the main results of SCO activities in the past period, recorded the common positions on key issues of regional and global policies, outlined the objectives of future work.
The principal priority for the SCO has always been to ensure security and stability in the Organization's area of responsibility, which today has assumed a trans-regional dimension.
The member states in cooperation with observers and dialogue partners as well as all other interested countries and associations resolutely combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, separatism, extremism, illicit trafficking of drugs, arms, ammunition and explosives, transnational organized crime.
SCO has firmly taken its place at the forefront of multilateral efforts to ensure international information security.
Particular attention is paid to cooperation in detecting and suppressing attempts to use the Internet for terrorist, separatist and extremist purposes.
Understandably, the Afghan issue has risen to the top of the SCO agenda.
The first joint SCO-CSTO summit dedicated to the situation in Afghanistan was held in Dushanbe in conjunction with the SCO Heads of State Council meeting.
The SCO advocates the establishment of Afghanistan as an independent, neutral, integrated, democratic and peaceful state, free of terrorism, war and drugs. The establishment of an inclusive government in Afghanistan with the participation of representatives of all ethnic, religious and political groups of Afghan society is extremely important.
The SCO has steadily increased its positive impact on the situation in Afghanistan.
India takes an active part in the work of SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, because peace and stability in that country and in Central Asia in general, which is the core of SCO, are of strategic importance for India.
In view of the growing significance of the SCO in Eurasia and beyond, and India's increasing role in regional and global processes, one can state with confidence that India's membership of this organization undoubtedly contributes to peace and prosperity in the entire vast region.
As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi noted, "Our membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a natural extension of the relationship India has with its member countries and reflects the region's place in India's future”.
Since joining the SCO as a full-fledged member state, India has been actively involved in the activities of the Organization "without any hesitation".
At the Tenth Meeting of Heads of SCO Member States' Disaster Management Agencies organized in New Delhi in November 2019, the Action Plan for the Implementation of the SCO Intergovernmental Agreement on Cooperation in Disaster Management Assistance for 2020-2021 was approved, thus enhancing cooperation between our countries in this area.
India's representatives in the Secretariat and in the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure are directly involved in drafting and implementing important documents aimed at ensuring security, strengthening trade and economic relations, and developing cultural and humanitarian links within the Organization.
We note the successful meeting of the Council of Heads of Government (Prime Ministers) of SCO member States hosted by New Delhi in Videoconference format last year and the organization by our Indian partners of various events at the ministerial and expert levels.
A very promising initiative is the establishment of the Special Working Group on Startups and Innovations, which would meet annually on Indian territory, and the establishment of the SCO Young Scientists Conclave to form a science, technology and innovation partnership within the Organization.
India's proposal to establish an Ad Hoc Working Group on Traditional Medicine within the framework of the Meeting of Ministers of Health of the SCO member states is of serious practical importance.
I cannot fail to mention the first Consortium of SCO Economic and Analytical Centers organized by India, under which an action plan was developed to provide a roadmap for implementing the Program of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation.
One cannot ignore India's unique ancient culture, which has greatly enriched the civilizational palette of the SCO.
Last year, at the initiative of the Indian side, the first ever SCO international online exhibition of Buddhist heritage was held at the National Museum in New Delhi.
The exhibition featured rare Buddhist treasures and artifacts found during excavations of famous archaeological sites on the territory of SCO member states.
This online exhibition on the Buddhist heritage allowed us to experience first hand the immense world of Buddhism and Indian philosophy in general, and to realize once again the deep historical ties between our countries.
The 10 books of Indian literature translated from 10 different Indian languages presented to the Secretariat and the SCO member states this year upon the initiative of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced at the SCO Summit of Heads of State in Bishkek in 2019 will further increase the understanding and love of Indian culture and literature among the readers of the SCO member states.
India has opened to the SCO member states an amazing world of yoga, which is becoming more and more popular every year in the world, uniting people of different races and beliefs.
I note that the perfect wisdom and spiritual love underlying yoga are largely in tune with the principles of the "Shanghai Spirit," which constitute the moral and ethical foundation of the SCO.
India's admission to the SCO has significantly broadened the Organization's geographical reach, raised its profile and influence in the region and the world.
We are convinced that your country will continue to make a significant contribution to the SCO's work in maintaining peace and stability in the region, countering current as well as possible future threats and challenges of objective and subjective (human factor), natural and man-made nature.
India's potential is huge in terms of developing trade and economic, scientific and technical cooperation within the Organization, including the expansion of alternative energy sources, the introduction of information technologies, telemedicine, pharmaceuticals, medical tourism, financial, hospitality and tourist services, and building up cooperation in environmental protection.
Of course, in the current circumstances, the primary importance is given to combining the scientific and production capabilities of the SCO countries in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, in the context of which India, China and Russia, as the countries with the most powerful scientific and technological capabilities, are objectively destined to play the leading role.
Equally important is the coordination and development of a joint strategy to overcome the social and economic consequences of the coronavirus cataclysm, restore cross-border production chains, transport communications, the normal movement of technology, goods, services and capital, and the reanimation of human exchanges.
We highly appreciate India's activity in the youth dimension of the SCO. The young generation - more than 800 million young people live in the SCO today - is our common future, which we must jointly nurture, guide and protect.
And, of course, we consider India as one of the key players in strengthening cultural and humanitarian cooperation between the SCO member states.
Many of the points I touched upon were raised by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the SCO Heads of State Council meeting in Dushanbe.
These topics were also mentioned in his speech at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly.
I do not doubt that today's conference will formulate new substantive ideas on further enrichment of interaction within SCO across the full spectrum of its agenda, which will later on be translated into practical steps.
I wish everyone a productive session ahead!